Sell me on...Harnmaster

TristramEvans

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spin-off of the Kickstarter thread. I've known of Harnmaster, and seen and been impressed by Harnworld over the years. For those who have read and played the game though, what's the system like? What are the various editions and differences? How does it compare to other fantasy games?
 
I've played in HarnMaster campaigns quite a bit. I'm in one now, actually. The differences between the editions are pretty minor...mainly just refinements and streamlining. (I'll talk about HarnMaster Gold at the end.)

HarnMaster is crunchier than most systems nowadays, but most of it is front-loaded. In particular, the armor can be a bit of a bear since every type of armor has different protections vs different types of attack, and different armor covers different body locations, with overlap. There are some free resources describing "typical" types of armor, from very light to very heavy. You can select one and just record the values for each location. Or you can put it together yourself. This is probably the single biggest headache.

It's a percentile system. It has different schools of magic and encourages you to build your own spells. Multiple deities. Once your character is complete things are pretty straightforward. Combat requires a chart, but they provide a couple in the rules. Combat is fairly tactical with different attack and defense options. It can be pretty deadly if you're not careful, and there are rules for infection and healing if you want to use them.

We've always enjoyed it. The rules are clear and well-written. It's a more realistic medieval setting than most, magic is rare. There are Dwarves and Elves, but they tend to keep to themselves and not travel in Human lands. There are Gargun, the Harn equivalent of Orcs.

So, if you like a more realistic game that's on the crunchy side, you should be good.

Now, HarnMaster Gold. Not related at all to the Kickstarter. Robin Crossby, one of the original creators, had creative differences and left Columbia Games to start Kelestia Productions. I'm not going to go into the details, but however the split occurred, Crossby retained the right to continue to produce Harn products. His version of the rules, HarnMaster Gold, goes in for an incredible amount of crunch and detail. I've heard it's good...but too crunchy for my tastes.

Any particular questions?
 
It sounds very similar to Rolemaster
 
How does the magic system work?
 
I have only read HarnMaster so can't comment on how it is in actual play. I'd put HarnMaster 3 and RuneQuest 6 on about the same crunch level. Also, both being d100 based you could probably import/export some components from one to the other with a little bit of elbow grease if you are comfortable bashing two systems together. Ultimately, I decided to go with Mythras (RuneQuest 6) when I started up my most recent game with my wife and kids.
 
How does the magic system work?

...and you pick my main weakness with the system. I've never run a Shek-Pvar (mage). There are different convocations (light, heat, metals, life, cold, knowledge). You'll have a primary that you're best at, but you can learn the others as well. They have different complexity levels, which act as a penalty to cast the spell.

A beginning mage character is Journeyman freshly out of their Chantry. They must complete their "year-and-a-day" (at least) before they can return, bringing back at least three treasures and three spells that they've developed themselves. At this point they can apply for the status of Master. They'll likely start off with around 6-8 different spells. There's no restriction on using armor or weapons, other than encumbrance increasing your difficulty in casting, just like it increases the difficulty of any other physical act.

So, a Journeyman with a CML (Casting Mastery Level) of 60 casting the Lyahvi (light) spell 'Cloak of Kalaerin' (a quasi-invisibility enchantment) which is a level II spell, would need to roll 60-10=50 or less to succeed. (Level II = 2x5 = 10 difficulty). Any roll ending in a '5' or a '0' is a critical. Critical results will be much better (or worse) than normal.
 
It sounds very similar to Rolemaster

The mechanics intrude a lot less into normal play than is the case with Rolemaster. HarnMaster doesn't have levels. Instead, your skills improve as you use them. The calculations that go into combat and maneuvers are a lot less prevalent. Having played both for years, HarnMaster is definitely less complex.
 
So, a Journeyman with a CML (Casting Mastery Level) of 60 casting the Lyahvi (light) spell 'Cloak of Kalaerin' (a quasi-invisibility enchantment) which is a level II spell, would need to roll 60-10=50 or less to succeed. (Level II = 2x5 = 10 difficulty). Any roll ending in a '5' or a '0' is a critical. Critical results will be much better (or worse) than normal.
In addition casting a spell cost fatigue which work the same as injury but recovery is a lot easier. A normal success will cause one fatigue to the Shek P'var. Which means he is either +1 to a attribute save (rolling lower is better), or -5% to his skill level. If the mage ends up with 3 Fatigue or more they have to make a shock roll or pass out every time they gain a new point of fatigue.

Recovery works by resting for 10 minutes and get a point of fatigue erased. A good night sleep will also erase all fatigue.

If you get a critical success on casting the spell you will suffer no fatigue, a critical failure will net you a spell misfile and 2 or more fatigue. Also some spells have better effects when you get a high skill level in the spell.

Like combat, there are various optional rules that add detail to spell casting. For example trying to cast a spells with no gestures and silence as at -20. Or get a +10 bonus if you do a crazy dance and shout the incant. The chart that lists these modifiers also list the odds of somebody seeing or hearing what the caster is doing. For example a dancing and means somebody can roll EYE (3 to 18) x7 to spot you doing the spell.

Also HM Magic encourages players to make their own spells. In many ways it is Ars Magica before there was Ars Magica.
 
It sounds very similar to Rolemaster

Heh heh.... I know what THAT means, Tristram... ;)

But no, it’s actually nothing like Rolemaster - certainly not in the “leveling up” department (which I know you explicitly hated). The system is actually very simple. As many others have said, the complexity is all pretty much front loaded, which in itself can turn some folks off, but once you get past character creation, the game itself is pretty straight forward (and I love the dice mechanic of percentiles with results ending in 5 or 0 being criticals. No “minus 1/3 of your skill” like in Mythras - all due respect to that system).
 
Also HM Magic encourages players to make their own spells. In many ways it is Ars Magica before there was Ars Magica.

I ported and adapted the Ars Magica magic system into Harnmaster. ArM was always my absolute favorite magic system, and as it turns out, it translates quite nicely to HM mechanics. Works really well.
 
I ported and adapted the Ars Magica magic system into Harnmaster. ArM was always my absolute favorite magic system, and as it turns out, it translates quite nicely to HM mechanics. Works really well.

Brilliant! Ars Magica is my favourite magic system of all time!
 
Heh heh.... I know what THAT means, Tristram... ;)

But no, it’s actually nothing like Rolemaster - certainly not in the “leveling up” department (which I know you explicitly hated). The system is actually very simple. As many others have said, the complexity is all pretty much front loaded, which in itself can turn some folks off, but once you get past character creation, the game itself is pretty straight forward (and I love the dice mechanic of percentiles with results ending in 5 or 0 being criticals. No “minus 1/3 of your skill” like in Mythras - all due respect to that system).

heh, yeah, I really did hate that levelling up was the equivalent to doing one's taxes

(he says several years in to becoming a chartered accountant)

But I was more referring to the "each type of armour is affected differently by a different type of weapon", which I honestly don't mind as a concept, it reminds me of some of the early wargames I played. As long as the GM knows what their doing, it's not too much of a burden (which I'll say for our GM, he certainly did - even if I was a bit suspect of his decision to remove To-Hit rolls from the game. Seems like standardizindgDamage would have made more sense).
 
heh, yeah, I really did hate that levelling up was the equivalent to doing one's taxes

(he says several years in to becoming a chartered accountant)

But I was more referring to the "each type of armour is affected differently by a different type of weapon", which I honestly don't mind as a concept, it reminds me of some of the early wargames I played. As long as the GM knows what their doing, it's not too much of a burden (which I'll say for our GM, he certainly did - even if I was a bit suspect of his decision to remove To-Hit rolls from the game. Seems like standardizindgDamage would have made more sense).

Yeah, what we experienced was certainly not a standard game of RMS... but I’m far more forgiving than you about such things ;)

As for the armor affected differently by weapons, that sort of thing in many games becomes incredibly tedious. Not so in HM, as everything a GM needs is basically on 2 charts. It’s so fast, yet incredibly detailed. As I said, for me it really hits the perfect balance of intricate details with speedy resolution.

Which reminds me, one of my favorite aspects of the game is how quickly fights resolve - and they’re almost never to the death. It’s far more likely that after shoving a sharp hunk of metal into someone, they’ll collapse to the ground screaming in shock. Fight over, opponent still alive. Of course, they will eventually die from such an untended wound, and that wound may also (squeeeeee!) become infected if not handled properly. Some of the most intense moments in my HM campaigns were when wounded characters were desperate to get back to some kind of safe shelter in the wilds, to find a way to properly tend their wounds before infection set in.

(In one memorable case, the only one who had any medical skill was a mortal enemy of the PCs - who himself was also grievously wounded by said PCs. They had to take him with them back to a hunter’s cabin they stumbled across and spend a week healing together. Some incredible character moments in that cabin, I can tell you - and that enemy wound up becoming a close ally to one of the PCs afterwards because of the experience. Amazing how such situations can arise out of something as simple as a detailed wound system!)
 
(In one memorable case, the only one who had any medical skill was a mortal enemy of the PCs - who himself was also grievously wounded by said PCs. They had to take him with them back to a hunter’s cabin they stumbled across and spend a week healing together. Some incredible character moments in that cabin, I can tell you - and that enemy wound up becoming a close ally to one of the PCs afterwards because of the experience. Amazing how such situations can arise out of something as simple as a detailed wound system!)

Sounds like one of those "Real Life is stranger than Fiction" moments that you hear about. When you have a system that treats characters like real people and not game avatars or literary protagonists, odd Real Life situations organically arise which can be way more interesting and entertaining.
 
Sounds like one of those "Real Life is stranger than Fiction" moments that you hear about. When you have a system that treats characters like real people and not game avatars or literary protagonists, odd Real Life situations organically arise which can be way more interesting and entertaining.
Completely agree. And that said, I can also understand how a lot of gamers are turned off by such “simulationism” (as the Harnmaster designers clearly value). There are those gamers who want their power fantasies unburdened by the risk of infected sucking chest wounds ;) To each his own, obviously, but I’ve always gravitated to low fantasy, high immersion games which throw you into the deep end and force you to swim.
 
As for the armor affected differently by weapons, that sort of thing in many games becomes incredibly tedious. Not so in HM, as everything a GM needs is basically on 2 charts. It’s so fast, yet incredibly detailed. As I said, for me it really hits the perfect balance of intricate details with speedy resolution.
People can look at the charts here. They are great to use. I will be walking through them when I get to combat in my Let's read topic.
 
One of the things I like about HârnMaster is that professions at least appear to be aligned with what people would actually do for living in premodern/medieval(esque) world. And although PCs can be quite competent at the beginning, it's not a level playfield. Some people have more wealth, more skills and more social capital.

It's not that I take pleasure in this imagined inequality, but I guess I sort do. It's one of the many ways the system brings about meaning. It means something to be a noble, a merchant, a barbarian, a serf, a yeoman, or a priest. The world around the characters react to these roles in different ways, and it does not all balance out.

Maybe I should try running Lost Mines of Phandelver with HârnMaster.
 
Harnmaster used to be described as "The game that RuneQuest and Rolemaster fans play when they grow up".
It actually looked quite good, but was something I never had the opportunity to play
 
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HârnMaster is one of my perennial favourites. It produces a similar amount of detail as Rolemaster, but with considerably less time and effort, and I'm saying this as a huge RM fan. I've played HM Gold as well, and it's also impressive. However, it's crunch level is higher, and didn't play as smoothly as HM2/3. Some of the greater crunch was not playtested well enough, IMO. HM 1e falls in between the two, and is a slim all-in-one book and is the cheapest option if you can find a copy. That being said, they are all quite compatible, much like any BRP-derived games are. As for playability, HM3 is by far the cleanest and fastest, striking a good balance between verisimilitude and playability.
 
Something I wanted to say about the Harnworld products in general, rather than HM specifically: they seem, at first glance, quite dry, but once you actually start reading between the lines, the supplements are treasure troves of adventure ideas.

I first bought Harn when it first came out - what was that, 1982? - based on the Dragon magazine ads that featured the Harn map. I was instantly transported to the misty isle, envisioning epic stories. However, as I was like 10 or something, I was unable to truly process the world that Robin Crossby was presenting. In my young mind, I was looking for a kind of faux-Middle Earth - a world in which to set my adventures of brave underdog characters carrying an evil overlord's jewelry to a foul place in order to destroy him (what can you expect, I was 11). Harn, with its insistence on medieval verisimilitude and gritty realism, was utterly over my simplistic young head.

Cut to 2010 or thereabouts, when I stumbled across the Lythia.com website, and a document called "101 Encounters". Maybe it was my more mature mindset, or the fact that I was fully immersed in George RR Martin's works at the time, but suddenly the breadth of adventure possibilities in the world of Harn started to materialize. I began to read the kingdom modules and see them for what they truly were: what were previously perceived as seemingly dry treatises and manorial descriptions magically transformed themselves into densely packed adventure opportunities. I dare you to go over virtually any kingdom module and not find a plethora of adventure seeds hidden within the descriptions of castles, nobles, and villages. Orbaal (with its Irish Jarin resistance to the British Ivinians) and Chybisa (with its complex yet accessible power-behind-the-throne schemes, including a mad, syphilitic young heir to the throne) are two standout examples, though there are many more.

I say this because, for years, I had dismissed Harn as being "that game about dirty peasants bringing in the crops or something". I could not have been more wrong. My two campaigns in Harn have resulted in some of the most satisfying roleplaying I have ever been part of. If you have any desire at all for running a dark, gritty, challenging, and thoroughly "realistic" feeling medieval fantasy game, do yourself a favor, and have a closer look at both Harnworld and Harnmaster.

/sales pitch
 
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Here's a question for Devil Devil and robertsconley robertsconley :

Probably going to pick up the core rules PDF and Harnworld. If I was interested in Harn as a world rather than a set of rules, what's a good path to take? The expansions on religion and magic? The Kingdom guides?

Thanks for any suggestions!
 
Here's a question for Devil Devil and robertsconley robertsconley :

Probably going to pick up the core rules PDF and Harnworld. If I was interested in Harn as a world rather than a set of rules, what's a good path to take? The expansions on religion and magic? The Kingdom guides?

Thanks for any suggestions!

Harnworld and the Harndex then picking the detailed articles that interest you. What the kingdom, lore, and location articles get you are more details on the personalities of the area and the details fleshed out. So what is a sentence or two in the Harndex is fleshed out more. Still tersely written so the articles have a lot packed in.
 
seems like a good excuse to resurrect this thread:

 
spin-off of the Kickstarter thread. I've known of Harnmaster, and seen and been impressed by Harnworld over the years. For those who have read and played the game though, what's the system like? What are the various editions and differences? How does it compare to other fantasy games?
If I'd encountered Harnmaster before Mythras, there's decent odds this would have been my go-to d100 game instead...

Need I even say more, man:shade:?
 
Huh. The fact that Harnworld is system agnostic definitely has my interest piqued. I've been looking for settings that would be a good fit for Against the Darkmaster and Harnworld seems to fit the bill.

I do want to check out the actual Harnmaster rules though. I have a soft spot for non-DnD fantasy RPGs.
 
Huh. The fact that Harnworld is system agnostic definitely has my interest piqued. I've been looking for settings that would be a good fit for Against the Darkmaster and Harnworld seems to fit the bill.

I do want to check out the actual Harnmaster rules though. I have a soft spot for non-DnD fantasy RPGs.
For me, RuneQuest/Mythras from The Design Mechanism seems to click with Harn as the setting. I found converting things not too terribly hard. If anyone wants, I can post a link to my conversion notes.

Harl
 
For me, RuneQuest/Mythras from The Design Mechanism seems to click with Harn as the setting. I found converting things not too terribly hard. If anyone wants, I can post a link to my conversion notes.

Harl
Yes please!
 
Huh. The fact that Harnworld is system agnostic definitely has my interest piqued. I've been looking for settings that would be a good fit for Against the Darkmaster and Harnworld seems to fit the bill.
Harnworld is also backward compatible all the way to the original 1983 release. They are very strict about adhering to the fact that the present for Harn is 720 TR.


 
Yes please!
Ask and ye shall receive. Please keep in mind these conversion rules are subjective and untested, so your mileage may vary wildly. Also, these are based on TDM's RuneQuest 6 and do not take into consideration any changes they made when reshaping the rules to Mythras. Enjoy!

Harl
 

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